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There are 24 comments on Is Hunting Moral?

  1. For the ethical hunter, the pleasure derived has nothing to due with taking a life. It’s derived from accomplishment and connecting with who we are as humans. Those are extremely pleasurable experiences.

    We are advanced predators. The only way this subject gets overly complicated is when we attempt to move Homo sapiens from participation status to spectator status.

    If I may modify your “three rationales”;

    Therapeutic because it helps me connect with my DNA as a human and connect with the wild environment that our bodies are evolved to thrive in.

    Subsistence because I nourish my body and the bodies of my friends and family with what I hunt. That shouldn’t be lost because a rancher, butcher and store owner are offering a convenience in exchange for currency.

    Sport because hiking, scouting, climbing, training, carrying etc positively stresses my body and the contest between prey and predator is timeless and awesome.

    1. I agreed completely. I hunt because it connects me with my roots and my religion. (I am a wiccan) I feel an intense belonging in nature and wish to survive off of hunted meat, foraged plant life and my own livestock and garden in the future. I believe it is important that we remain part of nature, otherwise we lose respect for it. To me it is cowardly to be responsible for the death of an animal while denying that it ever lived. Those who eat farm raised meat dislike hunting because it makes them uncomfortable to face the reality of death not because they care for animals. Most farming is much more harmful to animals and the environment than hunting. When I hunt an animal or raise it myself, I know it lived well or free and when my arrow prices it’s heart it will die instantly and without pain and fear; the same cannot be said for factory farmed livestock. I can also ensure that every price of an animal is used when I kill it myself. Bones make needles and tools for Flint knapping and tanning, joints make soup, hooves make regalia, hide makes warm clothing, skulls serve as momento Mori and even the intestines serve as sausage casings. By hunting I take agency over my own life and my responsibility to protect the earth . I can thank the animals I kill upon their deaths through prayer and carry them with me in my thoughts and in my body throughout my life. I get to know them as we live on the same land and I have learned to respect them as they best me time and time again. They are beautiful, sentient creatures and they have my undying respect. I hunt because not because it is human but because it is animal. If humans were ever to forget that we are in fact animals we would surely sign our own death warrants. By hunting I continue my role in our ecosystem, our sacred place. Forgotten by most it is important that rather than serve only as a drain on the Earth’s resources we strive to remain a part of her. I hope one day that when I die, I can be returned to the earth, where I will in turn be consumed and join the memory of life by nourishing future generations of living beings. For all life is borrowed, we belong to the earth, to the universe and we are destined to return to both, in mind and in spirit.

      1. People hunt deer for multiple reasons, food, pleasure, more connected to nature, or conservation. Whenever you buy a gun, ammo, tags, gear or stands, 11% of profits go to conservation. As a hunter, it is important to use the whole animal, to respect it, to kill it a humanely as possible.

  2. While a reasonable look at the topic, it glosses over the major point that to me makes hunting obviously morally acceptable. Essentially if you eat meat, you shouldn’t have any objection to hunting. Even many people who do not eat meat, refrain due to the needless suffering caused by factory farming or due to CO2 emissions – many of whom have no issue with hunting, as it’s a far more humane a way to kill an animal than factory farming tends to be.

    The pleasure in hunting for the vast majority is not from killing – it’s from the ‘hunt’ part. Exploring the woods, scouting new locations, tracking animals, learning the sounds, rituals and patterns of animals, camping with a purpose far from civilization, and being a part of the ecosystem. The killing part is the opposite of enjoyable; it feels to me personally though that I can’t justify eating meat if I can’t stomach killing the animal myself – obfuscating my ethical responsibility does not negate it.

    1. I agree with Chris, hunting is more moral than eating farm animals. Not only do the wild animals live free, we also get to feel the impact of hunting first hand. But that is just a relative position of morals. In today’s wealthy Western world, we don’t need hunt nor eat farmed animals. So hunting is an unnecessary pleasure. It doesn’t matter whether the pleasure comes from a sadist killing of an animal or (as Alia and Michael said) from a higher source of connecting with the roots. If you subscribe to the modern life of convenience, and you go hunt for some additional pleasure – you are essentially placing your pleasure over the animal’s life and suffering. I can’t see that as morally justified.

  3. The only reason I may agree with hunting is for food…. Some people hunt just for the sake of killing….like the fox hunting in England…and I absolutely hate trophy

  4. Good article, really well put together and thoughtful.

    To respond to some of the comments:

    How does the sense of accomplishment, or the sense of connection to who we are as humans, or the sense of connection to one’s roots, or the sense of connection with one’s religion, justify causing suffering? And how much suffering does it justify? To take some examples:

    Imagine someone who derives a sense of accomplishment from hunting humans, and also derives a sense of connection to who we are as humans from it. (After all, humans have been killing each other throughout history.) Do those experiences of the hunter justify their actions, or is the experience of the victim also worth considering? If you answer that the hunter’s experience does justify their actions and that the experience of the victim is not worth considering, then you’re being consistent. But I would disagree with that moral framework, since mine is based on the minimization of unnecessary suffering.

    The same goes for the sense of connection with one’s religion. Imagine a religion that involves human sacrifice, and that the religion’s members feel a sense of connection with their religion after shooting their victims. Does the experience of the killers justify their actions? Here again, my answer would be no, but that’s the position that this argument commits you to.

    IMO the strongest argument in favor of hunting is for maintaining ecological equilibrium. However, the main question I would ask is, if no one did any population control and instead let nature play it out by itself, would that cause more suffering or less? Why is it preferable to preserve a small number of individuals of an endangered species at the expense of a large number of individuals of other species, unless we would otherwise expect the ecosystem to collapse into a desert? By that logic, a large culling of the human species is in order, since humans are directly causing extinctions and disrupting ecosystems at a higher rate than any deer population.

    1. Hello Anon!

      You mention you would like to minimize suffering. You also say people that justify the suffering of animals for religious reasons are acting inconsistent when they do not believe religion can justify human sacrifice.

      I believe you are missing some of the assumptions made in this conversation. Most people think causing suffering is bad. They also believe acting on personal, religious beliefs is good. So, what happens when (good) religious beliefs tell you to do (bad) suffering? Essentially, humans instinctually balance our good/bad with the good/bad of others. Humans often do not seek their good exclusively or only seek not doing bad to others. The intensity of our good and bad feelings are compared to intensity of good and bad feelings our actions give to others when we make a decision. So, we assume our good and bad feelings are a little more important than another person’s feelings, and our feelings are much more important than an animal’s feelings.

      My belief is that there is no logical inconsistency with saying my religion justifies hunting animals and does not allow hunting humans.

      In fact, there may be an inaccuracy in your speech when you say you want to minimize the suffering of others. If someone were needed to donate blood to you to save your life, would you say,”Don’t prick that person with a needle. I want to minimize suffering.” I venture that you would not. If I am correct, you also balance your good feelings and suffering against that of others, including animals. The only questions are if your beliefs contain a hierarchy: Whose good feeling and suffering are most important? Are feelings of you more important than others? Are the feelings of humans more important than animals? Are our feelings all of equal more importance?

      Thank you for your post. Feel free to respond to what I wrote and offer your perspective.

  5. That is an absolutely amazing way to view the world and nature. I find your culture very beautiful and think that is a very amazing way to live and view such tasks and activities. I am not from any kind of Native American decent, although I have a little bit of Shawnee in me, I still do the same rituals as you out of respect for the animal. I always thank it for its life and for providing for me, my family, and friends.

  6. Hunting has nothing to do with the pleasure of killing. There is no pleasure in killing an animal. Hunting is about the sport of going out and doing what is our natural instinct – hunting fo our own food. I almost always keep the meat from a deer or elk kill but, if I don’t, I donate the meat to food drives or homeless shelters to fill someone’s belly with the natural food of humans, who instinctively are animals. Again, I would like to say that there is no pleasure in a kill, you always have to pay you’re respects to the animal and make a good shot so that the animal does not suffer.

    1. Wyatt I definitely agree with that. I do the exact same thing, either eat all of the harvest, or share with family, friends, and neighbors. Sharing the harvest is almost as satisfying as the accomplishment of earning your own deer. I also believe in thanking and respecting the animal that provided and made it possible for me to feed me and my loved ones.

  7. hunting is comletly fine to me when people do it because of keeping the animal population safe and not because of the food.if you were to hunt for food youd get nothing because hunting is really hard and it is for the love for the forests and animals. Killing an animal is bad but not that bad when you think of the animal that is on your bigmac they lived in a cage and brobobly have never seen the sun as for the hunted free meat lived in a forest happily, im not a vegan but if I were I would still eat hunted meat because that meat lived an happy life and not a super sad life in a cage.

  8. I agree with this article, hunting should only be permitted for survival, food, and to control animal populations (invaders) . Not as trophies or as sport, due to the unimaginable pain it causes and the cruelness of human beings toward animals. I agree it may bring people closer to their traditions and I respect it. But it is one thing to hunt because you need it to survive, and another one to cause pain because of the power it gives you. There are moral ways to kill an animal.

  9. I wish you would have separated “farm-raised meat” into two categories: meat available directly from local family farmers and meat of the sort generally available in supermarkets, produced by the ecologically destructive and inhumane (both to humans and to other animals!) system of factory farming. The latter type of corporate operation could be the subject of its own morality discussion.

    I participate in a sort of online farmers market which connects local farmers with consumers via a website. A product list is posted each Sunday afternoon and people like me place their orders for delivery or pick up, depending on where they live. It’s great! This mode of marketing is good for the farmer, helping keep them on their land without kowtowing to Big Ag corporations, and good for the consumer.

    I’ve visited one of these farms and spoken with some of the other producers at a recent event. The way meat producers involved in this co-op raise cows, pigs, and chickens is a universe away from how the animals who provide the meat you buy in a supermarket are raised.

    Small farms involved in this co-op practice regenerative agriculture and follow organic farming practices although they’re not all USDA certified because it’s too expensive and time-consuming for small farms to do so. Their livestock are truly free-range. They spend their lives outside eating what they would eat naturally, not the grain used to fatten up livestock before they’re truck to a feedlot for more fattening and then just slaughter houses.

    There’s a great video from a farmer in South Georgia who started a farm called White Oak Pastures, part of which explains the health of his cows compared to those being raised in the corporate agriculture version of meat production. And he knows because his family was involved in the latter system and so was he early on. But he had a moral crisis and switched. The film’s titled “Cud” and it’s not only educational but entertaining to watch because its lead Will Harris has a great personality! I’ve watched it multiple times after digging it up on YouTube once again to share with someone else, and I never tire of it.

    The problem is that meat and other foods produced by small farms are not cheap. They’re definitely worth the money but not everyone can afford them. But if more producers adopted these practices, food produced in a more morally tenable way would become more accessible and presumably more affordable.

    Thus was obviously a major digression. But it seemed inappropriate to me to compare meat acquired through hunting to meat produced on farms without separating out the vastly different ways in which meat is raised.

    As a wildlife biologist, I could provide a whole sermon about how necessary what the author calls “therapeutic” hunting is to conservation of not only other species but entire ecosystems! But it would take me hours to write it and there’s no room to put it here. I’ll just mention whitetailed deer who, thanks to us, have almost no native predators left on the the landscape, and invasive non-native feral hogs. Anyone interested can probably look this up themselves or may understand it just by thinking about it.

  10. I think it depends on the purpose of hunting, no? If hunting for pleasure & not food (e.g. fox hunting), then that’s different for hunting for food.

    Some hunters are more connected to the natural way of life than non-hunters who ‘outsource’ the killing to a much more morally corrupt industrialised meat industry!

    I’d rather eat rabbit that was shot wild and lived a free & happy life, than ‘farmed’ meat bought in a supermarket.

    Hunting is very accessible too and, in a time of austerity & cost of living crisis, hunting small prey (rabbits, grey squirrels in the UK etc), is a good way to get a nutrient dense meal. In fact all that’s needed is some skill (practise) and an air rifle (yes, you can take small prey with an air rifle – <- non-commercial link)

    Of course people would need to know how to gut, skin clean and cook the meat.

  11. I very much agree. Part of hunting is for the chase, the connection to nature and family. Hunting brings people together for a meal, for putting up stands, and for processing the animal and using it all. Thank you, Hunting is so misrepresented in urban areas.

  12. It is crazy to read some of these comments supporting hunting. I cheer the fact that hunting is in decline and hopefully that trend will continue. Some commentators wrote they don’t enjoy “the kill,” only the connection to nature, camping with friends away from civilization, learning to track animals, etc. So why have the kill the end goal? Just go into the woods, enjoy nature, drink your beer and go home.

    Hunters like to portray themselves as “conservationists” who really care about nature. Face the facts, the majority of hunters use loud four-wheeled vehicles which disrupts migration and hibernation, leave trash & beer cans in the woods, and are half drunk while holding a shotgun. Come visit Moosehead Lake in Maine – the noise of the vehicles, the drinking, the rowdiness, that is the current state of hunting my friends.

    And what about the animal ecosystem hunters destroy? They want to kill the largest animal, which of course disrupts the order of the “family.” When an animal like a wolf, who mates for life and has close-knit family units, is killed, it can destroy the entire community. All for the joy of what hunters call “sport.”

    People here in Maine treat hunting as a family ritual – my son’s first hunt, my daughter’s first kill. Really? What are you teaching your offspring? Guns, killing, immune to the pain you cause, power over animals?

    What is always missing from these familial reunions is the fact that most kids – and probably most adults – are very bad shots. They wound an animal and it takes off terrified and in great pain. Do a photo web search of deer, moose and bear with arrows protruding from their sides. They survive for a while, but in agony. Sometimes the wounded animals are never found and dies a slow, horrible death. That is hunting.

    It should be mandatory to make little Tommy look into the terrified eyes of the dying moose he just shot. (In Maine, we call it “harvesting,” sounds more civilized). As the blood seeps out and the animal breathes its last breath, Tommy can feel proud of the pain he has inflicted. That is hunting.

    And don’t forget the picture holding the dead animal’s head – smiles all around. What powerful, smart, humans you are! You want ethical meat? Buy “certified humane” products. If it is too expensive, maybe cut back on the number of shotguns you buy each year. Or to be truly ethical, go vegetarian. I have been a vegetarian for about 5 years – it is so easy and a much healthier diet.

    I have never hunted – and never will. I will never understand the joy people claim to experience. You want to shoot, hunt and kill? Join the US Army, deploy to Iraq for 28 months like I did. That is a real hunt, when the enemy is as smart as you are, are armed and actually shoot back. How many tough-guy hunters want to face a fair fight??

    1. Hello C.W. Mitchell,

      I’d like to respectfully comment on your insights. I’m a wildlife biologist that focuses on human-wildlife conflict and ways of offsetting it in order to grow or, at the very least, stabilize threatened and endangered species, primarily large mammals that require space to feed, reproduce, and disperse.

      First, I respect the fact that you are against hunting wildlife. I also agree that many “hunters” do not respect wildlife or the land through various acts such as polluting (e.g. leaving empty beer cans, bottles, and other trash), being poor shots, engaging in drunken misbehavior, creating noise pollution, and outright disrespecting the animals they claim to have reverence for. There is also something to be said about the suffering that occurs as a result. How many deer survive with debilitating injuries from trigger-happy individuals who know next to nothing about using firearms? How many animals suffer from slow, agonizing deaths as a result? Finally, using terms like harvesting, taking, and sustainable use are nothing more than public relations buzz words. Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, hunters kill wildlife. That’s what it ultimately boils down to. The question of whether hunting benefits or hurts conservation, however, is the one worth exploring.

      In this particular context, I will mention that I am from New York State, where despite the beautiful Adirondack Park, a few national wildlife reserves, and additional state protected and wildlife management areas, and privately owned forests, there are currently little (if any) natural predators for our very large white-tailed deer population. Without natural predators (e.g. wolves, mountain lions, etc.) the deer population negatively impacts forest ecology by over consuming resources, hence why hunting can have some positive impact on the biology of the forest habitats. Too many deer ravage browse, thus paradoxically harming the forests and other species within the food web that, despite having different niches, rely on some of the same resources for nourishment and survival. With the food web being incomplete due to humans historically extirpating apex predators, too many deer can ravage protected areas. This is where hunting paradoxically has come into play.

      Personally, I would rather see a reintroduction of wolves and mountain lions; they would do a far better job of managing deer populations than human hunters ever would or could hope to. But until that happens, too many deer will take a burdensome toll on other species. Granted, nature does have a way of working itself out without human intervention, but historical and modern-day human pressures have already changed things to such a drastic degree that wildlife management policies (e.g. hunting) are put in place to help protect habitats. From a monetary perspective, funds from hunting and other uses do protect forested habitats, without which run the risk of being further degraded, which is why hunting fees (e.g. buck and doe tags) help fund additional research, conservation law enforcement, and restoration ecology.

      Ethics in hunting are very important to consider, and you raised incredibly valid points to that end. I never served in the military, but I have gone out deer hunting with a colleague who did. He owns 100 acres of beautiful forest. He makes a point to only hunt once every couple of years, and he only ever kills one buck to eat. The rest of the time he just enjoys watching them. By doing so, deer are not afraid to be on his property, and they live there in relative abundance. Since he is/was former military, he never takes a shot unless it ensures a quick death. Moreover, he tends to shoot old bucks that look as though they aren’t long for this world anyway. (Many deer starve to death as I’m sure you know, which is equally as horrible as a deer getting shot by a drunken yahoo or someone with no training in firearms.) His shots are quick, and all edible parts of the deer are used for food. Having butchered my own meat, I realize that an animal has been killed. However, my colleague and I go to great lengths to ensure that the death is quick, that the deer killed is old enough, and that it is only used for food. We have even mercy killed deer that we’ve seen starving to death, barely struggling to take a step.

      Finally, I agree that species such as wolves should be left alone, especially since the Eltonian food pyramid places apex predators at the top of the food chain, meaning there will be less of them than prey species from a population context.

      At the end of the day, I hope that New York will consider reintroducing predators that can do a far better job of consuming deer than hunters will, especially since hunting is on the decline.


    2. Quick question: C.W. Mitchell, are you a vegetarian? If not, then how do you get your meat? It is essentially the same thing as hunting except the animal is kept in a fenced in area and then shot and killed that way. There is almost no difference except that while hunting, one gives the animal a fighting chance to get away before the hunter can make the shot.

  13. Wonderful comments Anonymous, C.W. Mitchell, and you as well Mike, as one who is a proponent for hunting. Beth Wright, thank you for your comments as well about the horrible and unnatural world of factory farming. I believe the Natives would be proud of you all, and you all seem to truly love the earth and nature and seem to really be connected to it, as the Natives of this land once were, before the animals, as well as themselves, were so nearly wiped out.

  14. Hello Everyone! I would like to share my thoughts in this discussion, which I hope are respectful and appropriate to everyone. I also hope there are no obstacles to me sharing my viewpoint.

    From my experiences in logical debates and reading ethical philosophy, I believe there is always one question that must start every ethical discussion:

    What makes something right or wrong? (This question is the topic of metaethics).

    If we ignore this question, we end up debating each other with contradictory assumptions on what morality is. When we make assumptions without realizing it, we will learn much less from our debates than we ought to. Ignoring this most fundamental question of ethics also obscures our ability to find truth, or even find answers that satisfy us.

    This article does not discuss metaethics and assumes moral claims can be proven by examining our feelings and intuition. I think this article does a great job of examining our moral intuitions but I disagree with its fundamental assumption that these intuitions can accurately tell us the difference between right or wrong. More specifically, I believe examining our intuitions and feelings about hunting will not accurately inform us whether hunting is right or wrong.

    My position is that morality is determined by human nature. (This position can be distinguished from talks about the natural order. I am not talking about nature, only about human nature). Human nature is deterministic and not free. What satisfies our human nature in a sustainable way is moral. What does not satisfy our human nature is immoral. Being determined (no free-will) human beings, the only sustainable lifestyle-one we can constantly feel motivation and a will to follow-is a moral one. Immoral people may not always reform their ways, but they are always changing, looking for the moral path in the wrong way.

    So why do I believe morality has anything to do with human nature or human motivation? Morality in the context we talk about only is meaningful when it has a motivating power over us, especially when we feel acting moral is to our situational disadvantage. Only satisfying our human nature can have a sustainable motivating power over human beings without free will. It may seem I am using intuition to define morality. However, I only use intuition to connect my idea to the word “morality.” Whether we call my idea morality or not, my idea still exists. My idea of trying to satisfy our human nature and express truths to others that help them satisfy their nature aligns our thoughts with our motivation. I believe this makes it by definition a rational way of thinking and a way of thinking that is naturally persuasive.

    So, the topic at hand is, is hunting ethical? Our human nature seems to involve seeking pleasure, happiness, and life satisfaction (these are all different kinds of good feelings. Pleasure is instant good feelings. Happiness is good feelings from circumstances. Life satisfaction is good feelings regardless of circumstances. Psychologists seem to have different categories of good feelings, all of which are important and similar to what I describe). Human beings also try to avoid pain. We can see it is unsustainable for a person to live in a way that maximizes pain and avoids good feelings. Examining sustainable and unsustainable lifestyles can help reveal to us human nature.

    On the topic of hunting, human beings are causing pain to animals and may gain satisfaction from the act of hunting. I think the debate about hunting is popularly centered around hunting for sport, which I will focus on. In the altruism-egoism debate, Daniel Batson’s research (on egoism-altruism) has shown we have desires that require altruistic actions towards people to be satisfied. In other words, satisfying our human nature includes doing good to other humans. This evidence does not apply to animals, but it does show ideas that we only need to care about our own good feelings, when assessing our desires, are mistaken. The questions to ask are, “When hunters kill animals, is it harming the hunter? When hunters kill animals are they losing a sense of love or life satisfaction that would otherwise improve their lives?” If the answer to both questions is no then there is no reason to think a lifestyle of hunting causes the hunter suffering or is unsustainable for the hunter to follow. If this is the case, hunters are not acting against their human nature and are not acting immoral assuming the situation does include additional factors.

    This is my take on the debate. My argument assumes humans have no free-will. I also assumed sustainable and unsustainable lifestyles (for human beings) revolve around seeking good feelings and avoiding pain. I also assume if someone neglects their desire to help others, it will be reflected in them having either less good feelings or more bad feelings.

    I hope I contributed respectfully to this debate. I am willing to change anything in my comment if it does not come across as proper. Good luck to everyone.

  15. Hunting for food and to conserve an ecosystem is still better than buying a cheeseburger and supporting the animal abuse that is factory farming.

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